Love Aaj Kal has opened to a fantastic response all over and Saif Ali Khan has all the right reasons to celebrate. Not just has his banner gained tremendous credibility, even as an actor, Saif Ali Khan has managed to find a new standing and respectability amongst the audiences. With the weekend numbers in hand and audience verdict being loud and clear, Saif is confident that Love Aaj Kal will attain further heights in weeks to come. Talking to us, an excited Saif talks about what the success of Love Aaj Kal means to him, how he shrugged away questions around him turning producer and how the entire business scenario has changed in Bollywood today with box office records being created and broken with every passing week.
So Saif, has the party already begun for you, your family and the cast and crew of Love Aaj Kal?
(Laughs) No, not really. Where is the time to party yet? When a movie comes closer to its release time then the tension starts building up to check how the advance booking is performing. Then you wait for Friday to open well and then you want to check whether collections are seeing further escalation over Saturday and Sunday. Of course you want to keep a tab on it when the film is a hit. If it's a flop you just wish to run away from it all (laughs). So yes, when a film is doing as well as in the case of Love Aaj Kal, then you are glued on to Monday collections to check if they have managed to hold on well. So you know, by the time you have realized that your film is actually a success, you are so exhausted and stressed out that there is no strength left to party.
One expects you to spend some time with the near and dear ones though, isn't it?
And that's something that I did. See, you do celebrate but it's all done in a different way. In any case I don't really believe in parties. This way I have sobered down a lot; so much so that even I am left amazed. I believe that now partying means spending some quite and quality time with my dearest ones and relish those moments.
It must have been a feeling of relief though considering the fact that you turned producer with Love Aaj Kal?
Yeah, one of the biggest outcomes of Love Aaj Kal has been that I have been able to establish our banner. At least the film's success has given me a confidence that we can now move on to our next one. At the end of the day, all of this was a job which required a series of decisions to be made. There are so many crores behind you and there is so much at stake for many out there. So yes, Love Aaj Kal succeeding with the audiences and the box office is a real big relief.
There were many out there who thought that you were doing a professional hara-kiri by turning producer. Were you ever flustered because of that?
Yes, there were people who questioned that who were these guys who are trying their hands into production? What experience do they carry? Why are they spending so much? After all it has happened to so many people in the past who have lost credibility once they have shifted lines in filmmaking. But then as I said earlier, it is all about making right decisions at the right time. See, I am a history student and have read many stories and known many instances from the past. I have applied the same learning principle in my life as well. I have learnt from other filmmakers, seen their past success and failure. I have made notes of what to take seriously in life. All of that really helped.
For your very first film, didn't you ever feel that you were spending quite a lot?
Yes, Love Aaj Kal is indeed an expensive film and the importance of budget was always there at the back of the mind. So yes, the bottom line is that the entire business preposition was quite risky. We still didn't mind though by being adventurous with the storyline. Ultimately, a film is all about story telling and it depends upon how interesting can you make an entire experience. I remember my younger days as a kid in Bhopal when there used to be an old tailor who used to tell us stories. I am talking about that era when there was no TV, no cable, no DVDs. The only source for stories was listening to others narrate some interesting tales. These stories may not really be logical or carry a real feel to them. But then they had to be involving enough. This is what I learnt from those old days as I have been brought up on such tales.
I am sure you must have been confident about the story of Love Aaj Kal and expecting a huge response for the film. That's the very reason you flooded the market with a huge number or prints as a result of which every multiplex was playing close to 20 shows a day.
(Laughs) No one can still be always so confident around where the film would be headed for. You can flood the market with prints but eventually you just hope that people come to the party. That's a risk that you run. You promote your movie to the fullest, make it reach out to as many people as possible and still there is always a high chance that people don't come to the party! Ultimately there is just not a question of me being a star good enough to get dozens and dozens of people walking into theaters. It's an overall combination of Imtiaz, me, newer stars, music, posters - everything to gel in well in order to excite audiences.
Well, seems the combination did work eventually for Love Aaj Kal, isn't it?
If we talk about business here then I am expecting the film to do an excess of Rs. 40 crores in the first week itself just from India. Even on the conservative side, overseas should bring in Rs. 15 crores at the end of first week and we are already looking at Rs. 55 crores before the second week begins. With satellite and other rights bringing in money as well and theatrical business of next few weeks, we are comfortably looking at a Rs. 100 crore milestone for Love Aaj Kal.
Even with such huge numbers, aren't you amused with the entire multiplex success v/s single screens talk?
Oh yes, I am amused. I am surprised that people still start talk about single screens business when the fact remains that more than 80% money comes from multiplexes today. Come on, the entire business has become much more exciting today. Gone are the days when we used to talk about occupancy percentage and all. Today even if there are 10 people in a multiplex auditorium for some particular show and there are 30 odd shows running in a day, then no one starts worrying about it. Business has increased ten fold today, what with records being broken with every biggie releasing in theaters.
Just like the Hollywood model...
Why just Hollywood? In fact in our very country if you look at film business in Andhra Pradesh, the business has been all about numbers for so long. A Chiranjeevi movie would be screened at hundreds of theaters simultaneously that would help gain instant moolah. That's the reason why he used to charge a bomb at the time when we were probably being paid in single digits (laughs). Ultimately it's about the print thing. And when we talk about Hollywood, a film like Spiderman would release on 5000 prints but there would still be ready tickets available for Monday. Understandably so because logon ko kaam par bhi toh jaana hai weekdays par! But then comes a weekend and its back to packed houses again. It's all about the numbers game and better we start adapting to it, more comfortable it would be for us to digest the new phenomenon.